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The Method To My Madness: Part 2

Ebbs and Flow

Welcome back! Up to reading more of my writer musings are you?

In part one, I discussed how I write a scene. And how I consider a book to be like a movie: written in scenes not chapters. But lets back up even further from that conversation: a book being a collection of scenes, and think about how to organize a story so it naturally tells it self, creating it’s own ebbs and flows.

What do I mean by that? (I’ll tell you, because that last paragraph sounded like I’ve been hanging out with some yogi in the Tibetan mountains … naturally tells itself?) I’m talking about how your story moves along and (where I would consider) a good place to start a story.

Now I write YA, which is usually a little faster paced than other writing styles. In fact (Listen up this is a good writing tip for YA!), The average teen who reads has a short attention span. (Nooo http___www.pixteller.com_pdata_t_l-313020Waaay!) So you should pace your writing accordingly. (Duh.) Sooo – taking into account a persons average reading speed, you should change what’s happening in your YA story (change the scene, not necessarily the chapter) every ten minutes. No need to time yourself reading it! Just keep this tid-bit in mind when you’re writing. There is no magic word count number! I.e.: Hmm, it’s been about ten minutes of reading … time to throw a wrench it to things!

A change in the story doesn’t have to be big. There’s no need to go all Game of Thrones on your readers and kill off a character! Your changes can be a little subtler than that. Here are a few suggestions.

  1. Change the perspective. I.e.: Your character is in a bedroom cluttered with things. She picks out an old leather jacket from the closet, remembering who gave it to her. The scene changes from her in her bedroom holding the jacket, to a flash back of a memory of who gave it to her. Present to flash back.
  2. A character that hasn’t spoken or interacted yet, finally speaks up. Perhaps what they say gives the reader a new take on the situation. I.e.: They comment on what happened the previous night and it catches the main character off guard. “Oh my! I never knew he felt that way!”

More thoughts on story ebbs and flows …

Before I started writing HARMLESS, I read a lot of books on how to write fiction ‘well’. I daydreamed and took notes about my story for what seemed like forever before I put fingers to keyboard. There was a diagram in one of the books I read about the flow of a novel. I’ll be dammed if I could find the book, so I’m going to attempt to draw the diagram for you from memory.

Wait – I need to say one more thing before I get into this diagram. Okay – I have my big story idea in my head. It goes something like this. Girl goes through traumatic loss of her brother. Girl’s parents’ get a divorce. Girl moves from big city to small town … and girl unleashes ancient spirit that possesses her friend. (Whew, quite the jump there at the end.)

http___www.pixteller.com_pdata_t_l-313735So that’s my story in a very tiny nutshell.

Back to the diagram now! In this very informative book of writing tips, that I no longer seem to have in my collection, it said – start with a hook. The hook being – the moment when you have the reader! And put it in the first ten minutes of your book!

The hook in my story is ‘girl unleashes ancient spirit’. Chronologically, there is a lot of story that comes before the unleashing moment, but I don’t have time for that in this first part. I only have ten minutes to hold the dwindling attention of my reader. So all that super cool back story will have to wait. I only have time for essentials!

 

My super cool drawing!

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I’ve numbered the diagram to make this a little easier to explain.

  1. As you can see, right away in my storyline diagram, the excitement, the engagement, goes up. This is my moment of no return. Something happens that alters my characters plotted life course! Yeeee! Exciting!
  2. We are past the exciting hook. Things may have settled for the moment. The main character is flooded with questions and possibilities. What will happen next? Then BAM! A quarter through your story should be another big exciting moment. Wow didn’t see that coming! Now there is no ignoring what could have been coincidence. The plot thickens! (Insert evil laugh here.)
  3. The middle of your story. Don’t let it get saggy! IF YOU ARE BORED WRITING, THEY ARE BORED READING! Never forget that. The middle of your story is just as important as any other parts. I like to get into what I call ‘mini stories’ in the middle. Those awesome nerd-nuggets, back story, gems that will keep your reader going. I.e.: weave in a flashback, explain a quirk, debunk a myth! The mini story bits are endless.
  4. Building tension like the impending crash of a freight train. Then BOOM, the ending! An event which if your character survives is forever changed … not always for the better. All parts of a book can be tricky to write, but endings are what you leave your reader with. I’ve heard that, what people remember most about a book is not what it was about, but what feelings it left them with. What feelings will you leave them? It’s a bigger question then you think. One more pearl of wisdom when writing endings … I heard this at an event where Veronica Roth and Tahereh Mafi where speaking. Veronica Roth said that her editor told her, “You will find your end in your beginning.” Best advice ever! Ponder that for a while when you are having trouble with your ending.
  1. The tail-end. I like to keep this short and sweet. Say something poetic and call it a day. Some readers might want to know what happens ‘after’. But I say, if your readers want more – write book two.

So that’s my pictorial tutorial on the ebbs and flows of a YA story. But I’m not quite done yet … here is my tail-end.

Diagrams, tips, tricks and other things with help you figure out the intricacies of what good writing is. BUT the only way to go from being good to great, as with most anything – is to do it! So write, every day, even if you don’t feel like it.

Wow! That just sparked an idea for my next Method To My Madness Blog! Writing when you’re not in the mood: You aren’t always sunshine and rainbows, and neither are your characters!

 

Good writing and good reading to you all.

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Eight Steps to Fitness for Writers

Novel writing is a marathon that’s interspersed with bursts of speed, hurdles, and trip wires (aka plot holes). And yet it’s a very stationary sport. It’s easy to succumb to the temptation of staring out of the window, sipping from the half-empty coffee cup or vodka glass, as you ponder the inevitable: that like all writers, you are suffering from writer’s block. You are, of course, allowed to.

Writer’s Fitness – a Healthy Body for a Healthy Mind

Yes, writing is hard mind work—but minds are at their best in a healthy body. A fit body gives more energy, more thinking power…and builds a winning confidence that can feed into all areas of a writer’s life. “Your Workout Makes You Smarter”, an article in Scientific American in July 2009, explains that “physical exercise is critical to vigorous mental health”.

This is something I have certainly found in my life to be true. I used to box competitively, and noticed pretty early on that the fitter I was, the more effective I became at achieving goals inside and outside the ring. Pretty soon it was clear that in order to achieve my daily written-word target, I needed to spend many hours per day at my desk—but I also needed to be physically fit. The words just didn’t seem to flow from within when the vessel that held them wasn’t in top working order.

I believe that we are comprised of a mind, a body and a spirit—and the body minds spirits! So, the first step is to pour the Smirnoff and the cappuccino onto the knot weed that’s chewing through your home’s (and your writing’s) foundations—and to take some exercise.

Support for Your Writer’s Fitness Plan

It’s one thing to have a fitness plan, it’s another to stick to it. I’ve tried a lot of different ways to “trick” myself into exercising over the years. In the end, what worked best for me was a multi-level support plan.

  1. Find a Friend4.Fitness in Yr Daily plan

First—find a friend who shares your fitness ambitions. You can both then encourage, congratulate, or cajole the other into actually doing it.

I’m lucky because my co-trainer is my editor. This means our work schedules are often focused on the same deadlines so we can co-ordinate our gym visits too. Even though my editor works on the other side of town, we check in via email to push each other along.

It doesn’t matter whether your friend is in the same country—though similar time zones can be helpful—what matters is the consistency and the commitment of you and your partner to stay in touch and support each other in your goals.

  1. Make a Plan

The second is to draw up a (realistic) plan and monitor progress. This can be via a spreadsheet or (in my case) a piece of paper pinned to the bathroom wall above the sink.

The key thing here is to write it down. There’s more impact when looking at marks on a calendar that clearly show when days have been missed. Somehow, just noting it in the brain doesn’t have the same effect. We are writers and respond well to the written word—so write your plan down, update it daily and put it where you can see it.

  1. Banish TBSALA Syndrome

The third is to rid yourself of TBSALA Syndrome. This is perhaps the most important of all. It stands for: The Bathroom Scales Are Lying Again.

Arbitrary numbers have never worked for me. To be allowed to box competitively, you must make a certain weight. This meant weeks before an event of monitoring exactly how much I consumed, with daily trips to the weighing scales. I learned pretty quickly that the scales never lied. They also never made me happy. As soon as I stopped competing, I threw them away, which was a liberating experience.

Not only was it a mental burden banished, but I also became more aware of how my body felt at its correct weight. I learned how to “feel” the difference if I gained or lost a few pounds. Without the scales to rely on, I had to learn the feeling of normal for myself. It takes a while to get used to, but looking at scales puts distance between us and our bodies. It’s indirect. If you make exercise a part of your routine, you’ll notice on your calendar notes when you miss a day. Your body will tell you too.

  1. Make Fitness Part of Your Daily Plan2.make a plan

I start my day with a brisk fifteen minute walk to a local coffee shop. It’s enough to wake me up and I fill my time considering the writing challenges that kept me awake the night before. Then I drink a decaf or herbal tea, read the paper, and do the word puzzle, hoping to beat the Bulgarian trainee barista who wins four times out of five.

Why not add a gentle morning walk to your routine? More and more, I hear walking is the exercise of choice—there are several Meetup walking groups (www.meetup.com) in my area. If you find walking suits your style and want to go further, perhaps there’s a walking group near you.

  1. Add Moments of Meditation Daily – Fitness for the Mind!

After the coffee shop, it’s a brisk trot back to my desk. I open the Word file for my manuscript and write until lunchtime (the timing of which is dictated more by hunger pangs than by a clock). Then after a light lunch, I lie on the sofa for twenty minutes and blank out.

It’s a form of meditation—and I try not to fall asleep. When I rise, I feel recharged in body and mind. So I stretch a little, then write some more. This is usually the time of day when I am at my most productive.

It may feel silly to stop and take time for oneself, especially when there are pressing deadlines to be met. But give it try. Persevere. It’s an effective way to supercharge your productivity and it only takes moments.

  1. Make Sure You Move Every Hour!

When writing, I try to limit myself to an hour of sitting at a time. After that, I get up and move around. Web MD recommends two minutes of walking every hour to boost health (www.webmd.com, Dallas, Mary Elizabeth, April 30, 2015). In 2016, I’m planning to buy a treadmill so that I can create a “walking desk”, to enable me to walk and write at the same time.

Author Yann Martel of Life of Pi fame uses a walking desk—and it seems to work well for him. You can see him on Youtube discussing it at www.youtube.com/watch?v=-JBJMhJqgu0 .

  1. Find Exercise That You Love1.Find a Friend

Walking may not be the exercise that most speaks to you. But there are so many sports to choose from. And sometimes a change of pace is fun too. Even a favorite sport can become repetitive. Alternating between types of exercise can keep interest levels high.

Late afternoon/evening for me is the time for a gym visit or swim. I try to alternate sessions and aim for four workouts a week. Swimming is an incredible form of exercise because it’s highly efficient (working most muscle groups) and low impact. In the gym, it’s skipping, hitting a bag, stretching, and fast reps with light dumbbells.

Why not be adventurous? Find out what you enjoy. You can also alternate your favorite exercise with a new sport. What have you never tried but always wanted to? Does your exercise partner have a suggestion?

  1. What Motivates You?

One of my most powerful fitness motivators is the sense of guilt—letting myself down—if I miss a session. This feeling lingers until I hit a new target, whether it’s about losing weight or a certain number of push ups etc. I try to push myself extra hard after a missed session.

The energy of others working out nearby motivates me too. I’m fortunate in that I really do enjoy exercise. However, I find it difficult to work hard when I’m alone, so I aim to train when there are others around. Pretty soon you start recognizing and talking to people. As writing is a lonely occupation, I find this interaction stimulating. And once your new friends learn that you write, they usually want to know more…

But everyone is motivated by different things. Some make a promise to their exercise buddy about a target they hope to achieve; others promise themselves treats after a goal is reached. How do you motivate yourself in other areas of your life? What works for you there? Maybe you can adapt this to motivate you in your writer’s fitness routine as well.

A fit body keeps the mind fit. Scientific American said it. Someone—possibly golfer Gary Player, or actress Ethel Merman—said something similar too: “The harder I train, the luckier I get”. So I train pretty hard, and you know what? So far, I’ve been pretty lucky.

How do you keep fit as a writer? What exercise and routines motivate you?

 

5i.Moments of meditation 1.Ben in morning cafeBen Starling is passionate about marine conservation and boxing, both central themes in his work. His interest in marine life has taken him across three continents over the past three decades. He boxed competitively until recently and continues to coach. He graduated from Oxford University with a Master of Arts and a Master of Philosophy. www.ben-starling.com

 

 

 

 

 

Blank white book w/pathBen has just released, Something in the Water, available now on Amazon at http://bit.ly/SITWbtour2am.

The sealed box Teal finds in the street contains more than a mystery…

What if to be with the man of your dreams… you had to give up your life?

On the verge of losing her job, a side-lined journalist is forced to travel to the South Pacific to untangle a mystery where she meets a reclusive ex-boxer with a message. When a syndicate of corporate criminals invades paradise, she must either accept the plum promotion that will save her career or defend the island with her life.

The awesome Victoria Griffin from Victoria Griffin Fiction has tagged me in a fun Valentine’s Day blog hop!
 
You don’t need to be tagged to participate! So if you are reading this – join in and have a whole lot of valentine fun!
  1. Favorite Love-Story book? Hmmm … A memorable series that comes to mind – Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi.
  2. Share your best Valentines day memory? I’m not one to kiss and tell. 😉 Especially not on the internet!
  3. Favorite fictional hero/heroine? There are so many! Evan Walker – Fifth Wave, Eve  – Anna Carey’s Eve, and Juliette and Warner – Shatter Me.
  4. What story has the best most memorable romantic moment; kiss, proposal, etc.? The last book in the Shatter Me series, Ignite Me, between Juliette and Warner. Swoon!
  5. What is your all time favorite Romantic movie? I don’t watch a lot of romantic movies, but I’d have to say Hope Floats. It’s one that’s stuck with me. Or Maybe Train Wreck! Hahaha!
  6. You can go anywhere for a romantic getaway (fiction or non-fiction,) where do you go? Somewhere in Europe involving the countryside, castles and wine.
  7. Who do you want to be your valentine? My hubby is my only valentine. :)
  8. Chocolate or flowers? Hard call … I have expensive taste in both.
  9. Novels: Romance or Adventure? Adventure, but I’m a sucker for young love.
  10. What fictional villain, do you secretly love? I’m in love with the villain in my own book, Mason Allen! Ask my editor.

Let the Tagging begin!
I tag:

To participate: Copy and Paste the following in your blog to participate in this tag.
Cupid’s Book-Lover Tag

The Rules:
1. Tag the creator (AbbieLu @ Cafe Book Bean)
2. Have fun answering the questions.
3. Tag 5-10 people to join in the fun.
4. Thank & link those who tag you.
5. Don’t worry about the rules!
You don’t need to be tagged to participate, so join in and have a whole lot of valentine fun!

 

So … being that my manuscript is finally finished (YEAH!), and is waiting to be discovered, I now have more time to do other stuff – like sit and stew. But really – I’m not moping around staring at my phone and email waiting for it to go off … waiting … waiting for the infamous call. Okay – I’m not good at waiting.

But I’m finding ways to keep busy – like writing this blog! I got the idea to write this after it was suggested to me that I help run a writers workshop for a local woman’s group. There was a workshop template I could use, or I could change it up as I saw fit. This got me thinking – How can I make this workshop unique? How can I make it my own?

The only way I know how! By sharing how I write a novel. Yes, yes – I know people have done this before. There are a million billion self-help writer books out there. But that’s not what I’m looking to do in this series of blogs. I’m not wanting to give you writing tips. I am wanting to let you into my inner madness. To show you how (specifically) my unique way of writing is achieved.

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If this blog were up to my editor, she might say that I have the ability to channel characters from a fictional dimension. #TheFictionalDemension (I’m going to make this hashtag trend one day!) But that’s not the case … entirely. :) Wouldn’t that be cool though!

Any who, moving along …

In this blog, I’m going to keep it pretty general, or at least try. And then in the ones to follow, I’ll start to really dissect my writer’s brain, showing you where the crazed little hamster runs on the wheel!http___www.pixteller.com_pdata_t_l-300685

So – back when I started writing I didn’t have a whole lot of rhyme or reason about why I wrote the way I did. But now that I’ve been at it for a while I’ve started to notice the patterns in the way I do things.

http___www.pixteller.com_pdata_t_l-300696Let’s start with how I would write the beginning of a scene. Yes, I called it a scene, not a chapter. That’s because when I read a book (if it’s a well written book), it plays like a movie in my head. I can mentally see the characters interacting in their little world.

Now – I’m a bit of a free writer, by that I mean I don’t make huge, intricate outlines. What I do is a little more organic. In my notebook (coil bond, paper … I’m old school like that), I write out a few key points. This page often turns in to a scribbly mess but as long as you can read it that’s all that’s important. I start with the most basic things – Who is in the scene? This part is usually easy. I know which characters need to be there, which ones haven’t been seen in a while, and which ones might have some unfinished business.

Then I write down, in point form, what I need to get across in this scene. For example, the main character is very secretive about her life before moving to this small town. She’s doesn’t express her feelings well, she’s awkward, and the only time she’s ever opened up about her painful past was to a therapist, whom she can’t see any more because of the move.

Point form:

  • She (main character) is awkward
  • She doesn’t express her feelings well
  • She has a secret past
  • She’s spent years with a therapist, that she is heart broken to leave.

(These particular examples pertain to writing the first chapter in my novel. Maybe you don’t care … but it keeps me focused telling you this as I write.)

When introducing this character, I need to get across all these things, BUT without actually telling the reader or dumping too much on them all at once. Not easy! But I’ve gotten better at it. It’s the whole – ‘show don’t tell’ thing. :)

To help ‘ show’, I’ve given my main character, Rachel, a few quirks and objects in her environment.

  1. Cardboard boxes: A simple and an effective way to hide things out in the open. Give a person a whole bedroom stacked with unopened boxes, that have been there for months – and you now have a proverbial ‘elephant in the room’. The cardboard boxes gave me a way to show the reader that Rachel was hiding something. It lets the reader in on a secret without sharing all the details with the other characters (her friends by association), while still making something seem ‘off’. She is reluctant to share what is inside the boxes with her friends. (Conveying her secretiveness about her past.)
  2. Expressing her emotions through weather analogies: I wanted to show the reader the relationship my main character had with her past therapist. So I gave the therapist a nickname, The Weather Lady. (In my world, you give people you love the most a nickname.) This ‘Weather Lady’ would analyze Rachel by using analogies about the weather. I think using this in my story adds depth, backstory, and invites the reader to use their imagination about what the main character is thinking. It also keeps these feeling to the reader and the main character, because she is shy, closed off, and all around messed up.
  3. An inner monologue, that occasionally comes out: Something the therapist tried to cure Rachel of, without success. I myself have a constantly running inner monologue. This quirk is a little bit of me seeping in to my character. I think it’s an awesome way to share with your reader, while keeping secrets from other characters.

Now that I have my list of characters in the scene, the points I need to get across, and a few things in the environment, I start to think about how I’m going to share this part of the story with the reader. A good way to figure out ‘how’ is to ask a few questions.

For example:

  • Are the characters in the scene hearing something? A radio, A TV?
  • Is someone talking in the background?
  • Is a character dreaming or thinking about it in their mind?
  • Would a flash back best tell this tale?
  • Are the characters in a conversation?
  • First, second, or third person?

After I’ve figured out where my scene stating point is, I let my characters take it from there. If you know your fictional characters well enough, they’ll know what to say and do. :) #TheFictionalDimension Make it trend people!

Okay! I hope that all made sense and you’re hungry for more. Next time, I think I’ll write on how I develop a fictional character.

Thanks for reading!

Good writing and good reading to you all.

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Whether you’re submitting to literary magazines, querying your manuscript, or applying to be crowned ruler of the world, you’ve got a tough road ahead of you. There will be heartbreak, betrayal, and disillusionment—and that’s just in the trailer.

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But I’ve got a few tips to make it easier. Nothing fancy, but they might help you out in a pinch. Think of this post as a Swiss Army Knife for the submission jungle.

1. Savor encouraging rejections.

You know the ones: While this piece is not for us, you obviously have tremendous talent. Or even better: We would love to see more work from you. Take those, enjoy them. Don’t stop reading as soon as you see the dreaded unfortunately. Sometimes an encouraging rejection can be your motivator for the next few submissions. It lets you know you’re on the right track.

2. Give yourself a fighting chance.

Check the guidelines, people. We’ve all heard it before, but we can all stand hearing it again. If the magazine or agent accepts literary and mainstream, do not send fantasy. If they only publish poetry, do not send fiction. Format your stuff the way they ask. Send them what they ask. If the guidelines say to write your story on a roll of toilet paper and send it by way of giant carrier pigeon then do it! Writers are always struggling with the question of what do editors want? Well, they’ve been kind enough to lay it out for us in the submission guidelines. There’s no reason we shouldn’t follow them. Don’t let your story suffer because you needed to use Calibri instead of Times New Roman. It’s just not worth it.

3. Don’t stress about each submission.

I know I mentioned guidelines. Read them, follow them, but don’t get hung up on them. Don’t fret about whether the title is exactly a third of the way down the page or whether your cover letter is spotless. I’m not saying to be careless, but you have to find a balance—one that gets the thing into an editor’s hands. Your work will never be accepted if it’s stuck in an unsent email on your computer, waiting for you to proof it for the twenty-second time. Do your best, and let it go.

4. It’s a numbers game.

Nobody will ask about your failures. They ask about your successes. They won’t ask how many rejections you received for those five acceptances. They won’t care whether there were ten or two hundred. But guess what, two hundred submissions will definitely get you more acceptances than ten submissions. Submit submit submit. Most markets accept simultaneous submissions because they know how it works. You have to get your stuff out there. A while back, I decided to commit to a few things: write one word a day, read one page of (unassigned) fiction a day, and submit one piece a day. I have since discarded the stringency of this plan—although it did what I meant it to, started good habits—but I still submit like crazy. Sometimes I feel like I am crazy, or at least a glutton for punishment, when the rejections start rolling in. But here’s what I’ve learned: you pay for each acceptance. You pay with effort. You pay with time. And you pay with rejections. Every so many rejections I receive earn me an acceptance, even if the going rate fluctuates.

5. Don’t take it personally.

Yeah, we’ve all heard this one. We roll our eyes when someone gives this advice, and yet it is one of the toughest pieces to master. As a softball player, we talk a lot about the fact that a person’s value is not dependent on her batting average. Obviously, I know that, rationally. If someone walks up to me and asks, “Are you a bad person because you struck out last night?” I’m not going to say yes. But I often feel that way, and the fact that the feeling is not grounded in logic makes that it tougher to combat. As writers, it can be even more difficult. Each piece we write is a part of us, and when an editor rejects it, we feel like they are rejecting us as a person. So next time you see an email in your inbox (Thank you for your submission, but unfortunately…) take a moment to remind yourself that your self-worth is not hooked to that message. You are not a bad person because one editor didn’t absolutely adore your work. Don’t let yourself fall into that trap. If your personal value is at stake every time you send out work, a difficult process becomes impossible.

If you’re not sure whether you need that reminder, say it out loud. Seriously, stand up, take a deep breath, and say, “I am still a good person. Rejection does not change that.” See how it makes you feel. I know it sounds silly, but it’s one of those things that can sneak up on you and get stuck somewhere deep in your mind. Don’t let it.


Real talk: when the Twitter feed is out of sight, and nobody is watching, it’s going to come down to you and the submit button. That’s why, as much as these tips work for me, you have to find your own driving force strong enough to make you press that button and put your heart on the line. You have to find your own reasons and your own strategies to survive it.
 
Hopefully, something in this post clicked for you. I hope I leave you with one line or one thought that makes it a little bit easier. Because really, that’s all we can hope for as writers—for it to be just a bit easier. I know, and you know, that we would never want it to be easy. We would never sacrifice the thrill that comes with being chosen out of hundreds or thousands for that coveted acceptance.
 
Just don’t tell the editors that.

Guest Blog Written By: Victoria Griffin

Victoria GriffinFiction writer. East Tennessean.

Victoria was born and raised within sight of the Smoky Mountains. She loves any place you can still see the stars and constantly struggles with (and sometimes succumbs to) the temptation to write “ain’t” and y’all.”

She is a senior at Campbell University, home of the Fighting Camels (yes, it’s always hump day at Campbell), where she maintains dual identities as a softball player and English major.

When not writing (with a do not disturb sign stuck to the door) she is likely on a lakeside run or relaxing in a hammock, her nose in a book.

Her work has appeared in various literary magazines, links to which can be found in the Fiction section. Follow on Twitter for updates. – See more at: http://www.victoriagriffinfiction.com/about.html#sthash.GzkDg1zx.dpuf

What's NextWhat’s Next: Part 3

It’s been a while since I’ve written a ‘What’s Next’ blog … so I’m about due to write one again!

Lets see …

First – I learned that you can have the best book ever, but if you can’t hook your reader in the first few pages, most people will never know it’s the best book ever. Thus – I spent a month editing chapter one into a lean mean … um … chapter. Those first pages can be tricky! You have to set the stage, so to speak. And my first chapter has five characters in it. It was quite the challenge, making sure each character had their own voice right from the start. Also, getting just the right amount of back-story without dumping everything out was a precarious balance to find. But I think I did it.

I’m getting a bit ahead of myself here. I couldn’t have attempted another rewrite on my manuscript without my new editor! I was confident that my work was good, but I wanted it to be great! (I dream big!) I needed someone who was as big a fan of my characters as me, but possessed editing talents that I do not. She found me – or vice versa. It doesn’t matter … It was a fantastic experience, from which I learned a ton. For example – The subtle nuances between American, Canadian, and UK grammar and spelling. No matter how long I write, I think I’ll always need help this sort of thing.

So – after the editing, and the editor, I now have a solid handle on where I want my book to go. And I have a plan on how to get it there. As many authors know, publishing is a confusing, and can be, cruel world. It involves a lot of ‘hurry up’ and ‘wait’. But patience and perseverance will see you through a lot of that.

Another thing that got finished this month was my book trailer! It’s been a while in the making, but well worth the effort. I’d recommend my graphic artist to anyone. She’s a visual arts genius! I’ve learned so much about stock footage, voice overs, and music. And I’m so dying to show it to everyone! But alas … this gem isn’t going online until just before the book is released. Unfortunately, I don’t have a release date yet.

What else can I tell you about my woes to becoming a published author…

I’m back on the bandwagon, creating more high quality content like this for my website! I’m writing blogs, contacting authors for interviews, and sourcing out interesting guest bloggers! Keeping up my website is an important part of an authors platform. These days, an online presents is so crucial! Who knew there would be so much other stuff to writing a book … other than writing a book?

A new thing I’ve started doing in preparation to having published book, is getting more involved in my local writing community, as a presenter. I’m just working out details to lead a four-day writers course put on by a local woman’s foundation. And I’m looking into getting on a panel or two at the next When Words Collide in August.

Interesting fact: When I was a kid, I used to compete at public speaking. I made it up to provincial levels once! Public speaking isn’t always considered the ‘coolest’ of hobbies, but I’m sure glad I learned those skills early on.

Last but not least …

dreamstime_m_22497074The most awesome thing I’ve done, (in terms of my writing) in the past few weeks is – I submitted a query to the agent. For some that might not seem overly epic, but to me it is. After all the beta-readers, editors, failures and successes – I finally have a manuscript that I’m proud of.

It gives me terrible butterflies to finally be at this point, which is probably normal. Who wouldn’t be nervous, sharing with the world something that took years to create? But – my work is ready to get out there, on stage, and do it’s thing! I just hope, that with all my efforts that the critics will be kind and throw roses, not rotten vegetables.

To all the other writers out there that keep on pursuing their dreams … I hope you get roses too!

Good reading and good writing to you all!

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All He Had To Say Was Thank You

Guest Blog by Alon Shalev

There is an urban author’s myth of a now famous author in her undiscovered days – was it Janet Evanovich? – who spoke at a bookstore in a mall with pouring rain outside. She knew the audience would be sparse as the mall was empty, and to cheer herself up, she bought a box of chocolates from the store next door.

Only four people turned up and she made them sit in a circle and gave them each a chocolate. They were silent as she spoke and read, and asked no questions. At the end three got up and left. The fourth thanked her and the author asked, rather desperately, if she wanted to buy a book. The woman laughed and said that all four were homeless, and just thirsted for a little culture so the bookstore allowed them to attend. The author felt compelled to give her a copy of her book and the rest of the chocolates.

 

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I recently went to a book reading of an author who is struggling to break through, like me. We had met a few times and I have offered advice at various stages. I dutifully spread the word of his book launch to my social and e-circles, attended the reading, and bought a book.

Not many people turned up and even less felt inclined to buy the book. He was disappointed and the bookstore staff was not too excited either. When I asked him to sign my book, he mumbled a weak thank you and scribbled. I don’t think he ever made eye contact with me, and I felt a profound sense of resentment.

This is reality for all but the 200 or so A-listers. The rest of us may have 50 people in attendance or 5. It is hit-or-miss and this is probably a significant reason why adopting an online marketing strategy makes sense.

To celebrate the first Wycaan Master trilogy and the Eric Hoffer Book Award, I held a celebration in my hometown at the iconic Games of Berkeley at the end of last year. There was a strong attendance, but I put a lot of time into advertising and most of those attending had already bought the books. It was not a good return on investment if I look at it through economic eyes alone.

Games of Berkeley Question from Asif

But I loved doing it. I loved my friends who came and read parts, I loved the Q&A, especially the questions from the younger members of the audience, and most of all, I loved the conversations and the excitement of my readers – yes, for one afternoon they were all mine!

I sincerely hope that those who attended left happy and committed to my series and me. I especially hope that the young people were inspired to continue reading and, who knows, maybe put millennial quill to parchment.

I have heard many times that my author-hero, Terry Brooks, is an inspiring author to meet. I hear he shares a conversation with everyone bearing books, and that he is a delight to be with. I can believe that after reading this passage in his book, Sometimes The Magic Works. He says that book signings are not about selling books or advancing your career. He say…oh why not just let him say it:

Terry Brooks

“It is not in fact about you at all.

Rather, it is about making a connection between readers and books. It is about making readers feel so enthusiastic about books that they cannot wait to come back and buy more – not just copies of your books, but of other authors’ books, as well. It is about generating a feeling of goodwill toward the bookstore and the staff. Mostly, it is about reassuring everyone that they did not waste their time on you.

How do you accomplish this? …

…Speak to everyone. Make them aware of the fact that you are grateful to be there, anxious to chat, and ready to answer questions if they have any. Never sign a book without looking at and speaking directly to the reader, and then thank them for choosing to take a chance on you.”

I think I have always thanked those who buy my books. To this day, when a stranger tweets me that they just bought one, I feel genuinely touched and honored that they spent their hard-earned money on my books.

 

girl-hugging-words1And I thank them.

Maybe one day, someone will develop an app wherein I can put my hand through the screen and shake theirs as I thank them. Perhaps the 2.0 version will allow us to reach through and hug someone.

 

The world would become a better place, for authors, readers and all humankind!

Have a great week,

Elfwriter

 

 

 

Book Signing Games of BerkeleyAlon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of GalbriethThe First Decree, and Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3 – all released by Tourmaline Books. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter). Hang out with Alon on Google+

Focus and Generosity for 2016 Guest Blog by Shari L Schwarz

As the New Year rings in or stumbles in, or however it comes in for you, I’m frantically trying to catch up from being sick for almost three weeks before Christmas. Although that was a miserable time in many ways, I found that having to stop and rest for that long forced me to see things afresh.

Two words have been impressed upon me during this time: Focus and Generosity

I’ve been quite scattered in my writing life (we won’t talk about the many other aspects of my life which make it a challenge to stay focused: mothering, housekeeping and the like). But I’ve been increasingly feeling a strong pull toward the picture book community and the desire to get at least one of my books on its way to traditional publication–this year?? I’m in a new critique group here in Ft. Collins where we focus mostly on picture books, and some of my favorite critique partners online are picture book writers as well. My plan is to focus on my picture books even though I have a Middle Grade book and one Young Adult book written (and one MG and one YA, each partially written). I can’t do it all! I have 6-8 picture books that have been revised…some of them dozens of times, so I feel like I’m past the honeymoon stage of thinking, “Oh! this is easy.” Ha! It’s not easy at all, but it’s fun and I love the generosity of the picture book community…so here I go!

Which brings me to my second word for 2016: Generosity. I don’t necessarily mean materialistically but more of a generosity of spirit. The spirit of giving back, and opening up…of letting go of the things I feel like clenching my fist around…and blessing others, encouraging others…cheering others on and letting go of jealousy…

These are my New Year’s resolutions, in a sense. And I’ve also started freelancing (editing, ghostwriting, blogging) to help save up for our boys’ impending college years.

So, will I be more focused? We’ll see. But I feel like I have more concrete goals to hang my hat on this year.

2015 has been a year of shifting and learning for me. It’s the year I thought I’d never write again…and the year I won a big writing award and received my first contract for publication for Treasure at Lure Lake.

I can’t wait to see what 2016 holds! I at least know I’ll be holding the fruit of 2015 in my hands in April!!! I’ll be officially revealing my book cover for Lure Lake next week with a giveaway for a Kindle Fire, so stay tuned!

Happy New Year to you!

And Happy Writing!

 

About the Author

 

sharismiling2014Shari Schwarz is a mom of four boys–three preteen/teenagers and one preschooler. (Yes, they are alike in many ways!) and the author of the upcoming, TREASURE AT LURE LAKE, out April 12, 2016 by Cedar Fort Publishing.

Shari is a simple person (her husband would totally disagree!) and a homebody, but she does love long chats with friends over a latte, dreaming of going to the beach, and writing adventure stories for children. If she’s not writing, she’s reading, whether it be a manuscript for the literary agent she interns for or working on an editing project. In the quiet spaces of life, she might find time for her other loves: gardening, weight-lifting, hiking, and a bit of photography. Shari has had a lifelong faith in God and tries to leave it ALL in his hands.

Shari has degrees in Cross-Cultural Studies and Elementary Education with an emphasis in Literacy. She worked as an elementary school librarian before her little guy came on the scene. Now she stays home with him and writes.

Follow Shari on Twitter!

Check out Her website at http://www.sharischwarz.com!

Hello fellow readers!

Katherine (30)It’s the first week of January 2016 and I’m doing my best to fall into some semblance of a routine. (Insert dramatic sigh here.) Semblance being the operative word …

The first day of the month started off like the day before it, sleeping in past any normal adult should. Not because I partook in any New Year’s festivities, but because I’m a smart mom who believes in the idea of banking sleep … at least I want to believe. So far, sleeping in is only proving to fuel my night owl tendencies.

Any who, on to what I wanted to say! Getting back into this writing and blogging thing is tough stuff!

For the entirety of 2015, I was blessed to have the company of my husband at home with me, 24/7. Some of you might think that’s not such a blessing, but the two of us get along like ketchup on Kraft Dinner! ☺ I like that analogy ☺

So, it’s been a year of doing all those things we’ve always wanted to do but never had time for. Traveling! Finishing my book! Living all will-nilly like gypsies! BUT now – it’s back to reality. He’s back at a 9-5 and so am I – so to speak. Being a stay-at-home super mom/writer extraordinaire is more between the hours of awake and asleep.

These last few days of settling into a new schedule have been interesting ones. Let me browse you through the highlights.

My computer.

2015-11-02 12.22.54My giant, twenty-seven inch Mac desktop has been my buddy for four years. It’s never given me a problem or reason to doubt it until recently. But now it seems to have decided it would rather be a tanning bed than my word processor.

Now … it’s winter, and I do appreciate the radiant heat coming for my monitor, but it’s probably not good for either of us. So, I unplugged Big Mac and took him to get fixed.

After hours of waiting (not sure why they made me book an appointment – they obviously didn’t understand the meaning of the word), I got to speak to a tech. He ran his tests and everything came back normal. What? Not that I wanted to be told my computer was one micro-process away from going nuclear, but I wanted a better answer than that.

I left Big Mac overnight for a more thorough run through and again got an all clear, good to go, stamp of approval.  One thing the tech mentioned was, when a Mac desktop overheats, nine times out of ten, all you need to do is disconnect it completely from its power source for a while.

What did I learn from all this? What does it have to do with getting back into my routine? I’m getting to it …

The dog.

2014-05-28 11.21.02My sweet-hearted, geriatric dog has a few quirks. One, being his super power to shed profusely, and the other is his refusal to drink water from any dish known to man. I’ve combatted his shedding and distaste for hydration with regular grooming and crafty ways of increasing his fluid intake.

After complaining to the groomer and vet for the millionth time about his drinking habits (that kind of sounded like my dog needs AA.), they ran more tests on him at my request. Which came back perfectly normal! Not that I’d want a different result – just an answer for why he won’t drink water!

So he went in for his grooming, and the groomer asked me if I wanted his glands expressed. Yuck – better her than me to do it. I Googled it … the DIY method recommended wearing a welding apron, full arm-length gloves, and goggles. I might be a super mom but I was not going there.

To my surprise, having my dog’s ‘reset’ button expressed fixed all his quirks! Except for the shedding one. He no longer has the power to hydrate himself by osmosis but I like him better this way.

So what am I getting at talking about life changing routines, computer problems and an often dehydrated dog?

Here it is …

People can tell you till they’re blue in the face what normal is. But until you take a while to disconnect and press that reset button, you’ll never know what your daily version of that is.

Happy New Year, everyone! Never deviate from your own special kind of awesome!

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7 Questions For Writers When Looking Back on 2015
Guest Blog by Lucy from Blondewritemore

As writers its vital we look back to see how far we have come, what worked, what didn’t go so well and what we can learn for 2016.

Here are 7 questions a writer can use when looking back on 2015:

  1. What was your biggest writing achievement in 2015?
  2. What writing issue did you overcome and how?
  3. Which writing worries were unnecessary in 2015?
  4. How did your writing outlook evolve over 2015?
  5. Which one aspect of your writing would you do differently?
  6. What were your 2 biggest distractions in 2015?
  7. What was the best piece of writing advice that you received in 2015?

 As I love quizzes and questionnaires here are my answers:

  • Completing the second draft of my novel. It was an achievement because I detested the first draft and wanted to bin it. Instead I rolled up my literary sleeves and re-wrote 77k words.
  • Writer’s Block. I went through a really bad patch after my second draft. No matter how hard I tried to write the third draft I just couldn’t write a single thing. Cue the world’s worst period of writer’s block. I became frustrated, paranoid and an absolute pain to be around. The way I overcame my writer’s block was sitting down in December and giving myself some writing freedom. I allowed myself to write whatever I wanted. I just sat at the table and let my fingers type. This was quite radical for someone like me. Looking back now I think I forced myself into writing the third draft and I wasn’t ready for it. Sometimes you have to just go with the creative flow.
  • Worrying about what other people think. I spent a lot of 2015 worrying about what people thought about my writing. This was fuelled by some hurtful comments about my blog and writing from some non-writers / people who know me outside of writing. Towards the end of the year I decided to change my approach. I said to myself ‘who cares what people think?’ – I love being a writer, I enjoy writing, blogging and I have the guts to share my work (believe me – its takes real guts to put your writing out there for the world to see). Since stopping worrying about what the rest of the world thinks of me and what I put out for the world to read I have become a much happier person and writer. I am never going to please everybody.
  • A more relaxed outlook. At the start of the year I was on edge, anxious and impatient about my writing. I wanted fast and immediate results – a finished book. Over the year I have really changed, particularly in the last few months. I have learnt the importance of patience and the benefits of letting ideas stew. I have ditched all my anxieties and gone back to enjoying writing again. This has worked wonders and I recommend it.
  • Listen to my gut instinct. I didn’t listen to myself enough during 2015. It is quite a skill to cut out the noise and listen to what your gut instinct is telling you about a project or a piece of work.
  • Phone and Pinterest. I am starting to reap the benefits of putting my phone away for long periods of time during the day. I am trying not to pin so much but it is addictive.
  • Books take time to write. Books cannot be written in a matter of weeks. Some takes years to write and that’s not a bad thing. Ideas need time to develop and mature.

Have you looked back on 2015? How was it for you?

Let me know some of your answers to these questions?

 

About the author

LucyLucy

A naturally blonde writer with a Yorkshire accent, who likes eating cheese, dancing around her kitchen and sniffing books. Believes she should have been born in America and feels that she has missed out on: Breakfasts involving pancakes, Living in a town where the name ends in ‘Falls’, and Fannypacks … just to name a few.

Follow Lucy on Twitter!

Check out her website at https://blondewritemore.wordpress.com/